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Meet the 2016 San Antonio Fellows
Alberto Altamirano, Public Involvement Specialist, Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
Deeply committed to improving the lives of people in his community, Alberto started out as a culture and arts organizer. His interest in public policy and community involvement has led him to work at the Texas House of Representatives, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Senate and the U.S. Department of State. Driven by his passion in technology, policy and public involvement, in 2015 he co-founded Cityflag a mobile application that will allow you to report infrastructure issues such as outages, potholes and vandalism while earning rewards and building a more inclusive local government. Alberto serves as a contributing writer for the World Economic Forum and Forbes Mexico, and recently gave a TEDx talk on "Civic Engagement in the Digital Age". He is also a MacArthur Foundation Grant recipient for his initiatives with the VotoLatino Innovators Challenge. Currently, Alberto serves as a Public Involvement Specialist for the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Alberto holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Texas at Austin and an Executive Education Certificate from the Harvard Kennedy School.
Celeste Brown, Field & Programs Manager, MOVE San Antonio
Celeste Alana Brown is a 22 year old native San Antonian with a passion for elevating the voices of underrepresented groups. She has done this through her involvement in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, The University of Texas at San Antonio's NAACP chapter and Black Student Union, and as the Field and Programs Manager at MOVE San Antonio, a local civic engagement non-profit.
Celeste is a recent graduate from The University of Texas at San Antonio where she earned her degree in Communications-Public Relations and she is currently working on finishing her minor in Business Administration. She was the first in her family to complete her college education and she did so a year early.
At age 21 she was recognized as the Most Influential Female Leader by the Black Student Union, was a recipient of the Who's Who at UTSA award, and was appointed by the San Antonio Police Department to serve on their Community Relations and Crime Reduction committee because of her work and commitment on improving community-police relations.
Celeste has her heart set on moving San Antonio to become the city it has the potential to be, and she won't rest until it happens.
Emily Calderon Galdeano, Director of Research, Excelencia in Education
Dr. Emily Calderón Galdeano has over fourteen years in the educational policy arena at the national, state and institutional levels. She is committed to learning and helping others succeed in achieving their educational goal, and as a community leader, she works hard and continues to be active in political, professional and civic arenas.
As the director of research for two national non-profit organizations, she has worked to integrate academic and policy research to help accelerate Latino student success in higher education. She has served as the project director for HACU Hispanic Higher Education Research Collective (H3ERC), a project tasked with advancing research and formulating educational policy to increase Latina/o student success. She also served as the Assistant Project Director for a multi-million dollar grant that coordinated institutional mentor/mentee partnerships to increase student retention and completion at Minority-Serving Institutions. As a former faculty member and legislative aide in the Texas House and Senate, she has worked with local, state and national political leaders in finding solutions to issues specific to the South Texas region.
Emily’s research agenda focuses on the intersection of public policy and higher education. She has presented at various national conferences and has published on Latina/o resiliency within the higher education pipeline. She recently co-edited a book, Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Advancing Research and Transformative Practice, which examines institutional environments within this unique group of postsecondary institutions where 60% of Latino students enroll.
Her commitment to the community does not end with membership in formal associations. She is dedicated to increasing the number of Latina/o students in graduate school, and serves as a mentor to students within the academic pipeline. Her life and academic experiences have led her down the path of public service and community involvement, and she believes it is her responsibility, as a leader, a Latina, and a scholar, to give back to her community in any way possible and to help open doors for future generations.
Dr. Calderón Galdeano has received recognition for her work and service by various national organizations. Her dedication and work with the Latino community led to her selection as a national 2012 MillerCoors Líder and a San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 2015 Latina Leadership Institute Fellow. Dr. Calderón Galdeano is originally from McAllen, Texas, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University, master’s degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio, and doctorate from The University of Texas-Pan American.
Shanti Day, Attorney Advisor, Social Security Administration
Shanti is the only child of parents who turned out to be too responsible to remain hippies. She was raised with the idea that our purpose on this planet is to leave the world a better place than we found it. To that end, she has spent almost a decade practicing law exclusively in the area of Social Security Disability. She was named to Texas Monthly’s Rising Star List in 2014-2016 and to Scene in San Antonio’s Rising Star list in 2013-2015. She has always found a way to impact her community – fostering kittens from the local shelter as a kid, acting as an advocate for battered women and children, raising money for cancer research while training for a half marathon, and serving on the Boards of various non-profits in San Antonio.
Shanti hold a Bachelor of Arts from UT Austin, a Master of Arts in Organizational Management from University of Phoenix and a Juris Doctorate from St. Mary’s University, and is currently being shown how little she really knows as she and her husband raise their twins.
Brian Dillard, Associate, Delta Risk LLC
Brian Dillard is an Associate with Delta Risk LLC, a cybersecurity consulting firm located in downtown San Antonio. Mr. Dillard has over 14 years of experience in the cybersecurity field, including ten years of active duty military experience in the U.S. Air Force.
Mr. Dillard is a 2001 graduate of Sam Houston High School and holds a B.S. in Political Science from Ellis University. Brian is an alumnus of Leadership SAISD, a member of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Cybersecurity Committee, SATechBloc, and currently serves as VP of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association.
Erika Forbes, Minister/Public Speaker, Self
Reverend Erika Forbes is a license ordained interfaith minister and the founder and chief visionary officer of The Awakening Spiritual Community an emerging all inclusive, all loving spiritual community located in San Antonio Tx. She is extremely hands on in the growth and development of this independent spiritual movement for all people in the bible belt. In her role as a minster she works feeding those that are hungry, sitting with the sick and helping single mothers that are in need of support.
She is a license spiritual counselor and works as a private consultant in marketing and public relations.
She is a lead facilitator and moderator on subjects that stand at the intersection of spirituality ,social justice and change leadership. She is a sought after trainer and diversity consultant as well as a presenter at major LGBTQ conferences. She is a national public speaker on the issues of spirituality,sexual orientation and vision. She is currently working on a book and a supporting workshop on social justice and spirituality for 20somethings.
Rev. Erika, received her license and ordination as an Interfaith Minister from One Spirit Interfaith seminary in New York City, she has a masters in world religions and a BA in education. She is the a mother to Chelsea and the partner to her best friend Shay. When she has time you will find her running, biking and practicing bikraham yoga. If it is football season you will find her yelling at the TV. watching her team win Go Seahawks
H. Drew Galloway, New Politics Forum Program Coordinator, The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life
Hilliard Drew Galloway is the New Politics Forum Program Coordinator at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at The University of Texas at Austin. In this capacity, he is responsible for developing and executing innovative, nonpartisan initiatives that engage college-age youth in politics and government. Complemented by a decade of private sector project management and leadership experience, Drew manages a portfolio of millennial-focused outreach programs and research projects charged with understanding and overcoming obstacles to civic engagement in Texas. Within this field, he specializes in the areas of civic technology, social innovation, and social entrepreneurship.
Prior to joining the Annette Strauss Institute, Drew interned at the White House Domestic Policy Council Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, the City of San Antonio City Council, and Bexar County Commissioner’s Court. Additionally, he has worked on several Bexar County political campaigns. In 2013, Drew founded The Civic Court Project, a nonpartisan initiative that encouraged constructive community-driven dialogue and civic engagement technology. The organization was awarded a Clinton Global Initiative University Commitment to Action designation.
Currently, Drew serves at the White House Internship Alumni Network Central Texas Coordinator, an Archer Fellow Alumni Association Board Member, a Friends of the Archer Center Trustee, and a Leadership Austin’s Conversation Corps facilitator. He is a proud alumnus of the University of Texas-System Bill Archer Fellowship and was named the 2014 Institute for Law and Public Affairs Ray Coleman, Jr. Summer Law Scholar, the 2014 University of Texas at San Antonio College of Public Policy Most Outstanding Student, the 2013 Urban Management Association of South Texas J. Rolando Bono Scholar and a 2012 Semmes Foundation Scholar. Drew graduated summa cum laude from The University of Texas at San Antonio with a B.A. in Public Administration, Legal Studies, and Leadership Honors.
Selene Gomez, Coordinator, Mi Familia Vota
Selene M. Gomez is the daughter of immigrants who came to this country from Guadalajara, Jalisco. They settled in Los Angeles, California which is where Selene was born and raised.
She is a graduate from Texas A&M University. During her time there she co-founded a student organization, Council for Minority Student Affairs (CMSA). to advocate for equal access to education for all regardless of immigration status and issues pertaining to the Latino and immigrant community. After obtaining her Bachelor’s in Human Resources & Development with minors in Business and in Communications she moved to San Antonio in which so formed part of the executive board for San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement (SAIYM).
While in San Antonio, Selene worked with the Workers Defense Project to help develop the organization’s first voter guide and assist in a statewide study about construction worker disparities. She also served as the coordinator for the Texas DREAM Alliance which is a coalition made up of various youth groups all over Texas.
In 2012 she worked with United We Dream and was part of the organization’s first undocumented youth led civic engagement campaign which was brought to San Antonio. Shortly thereafter Selene joined former Congressman Pete P. Gallego’s staff that represented Texas Congressional District 23 from 2012 to 2014. She maintained relationships with all federal agencies and was the lead caseworker in immigration cases and any related meetings or events.
Selene is currently enrolled in the University of Texas at San Antonio to obtain her Master’s in Public Administration with a Non-Profit Organization certification and has been the Coordinator for Mi Familia Vota in San Antonio since December 2014.
Steven Lopez, Attorney, Steven A. Lopez, PLLC
Originally from Harlingen, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, Steven is an attorney in San Antonio. Prior to law school, Steven worked in the City of San Antonio’s Economic Development Department. There, he helped local small businesses in their bids for city contracts. While working for the City, Steven developed a love for the people and culture of San Antonio. With a desire to better help his community, he decided to attend law school and begin a second career as an attorney. Steven began his legal career at a nationally recognized law firm where he fought on behalf of those hurt by the wrongful conduct of individuals and corporations. Upon his return to San Antonio, Steven founded a solo practice, focusing on serious injury and wrongful death litigation.
One of Steven’s core beliefs is that all people deserve an equal opportunity to achieve their goals. He believes that this quintessentially American ideal must be fought for and preserved by each successive generation. As diverse groups of Americans rise and fall, it is up to progressive leaders to ensure the opportunities that were available to them are there for all.
Steven is most proud of the work he has done with the Westside Family YMCA and John F. Kennedy High School. Over the last two years, he has helped develop JFK’s mock trial team into a nationally ranked program, despite the socioeconomic challenges that come with coaching in San Antonio’s Westside. Steven volunteers many hours a week helping students believe in themselves and challenging them to compete at the highest levels. In 2014 he received the YMCA of Greater San Antonio Strengthening Community Award for his volunteer work.
Steven received a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and went on to pursue his law degree at Baylor University School of Law, where he graduated with honors. While at Baylor, he served as Executive Editor of the Baylor Law Review and was a National Champion at the American College of Trial Lawyers National Trial Competition.
He is a proud member of many San Antonio area community organizations and has spent time volunteering and providing legal services to those who cannot afford representation.
Ruth Morris, Research Associate, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Ruth Morris is a licensed master social worker (LMSW), specializing in issues related to people with disabilities. Currently she is a Research Associate for the Audie Murphy VA Hospital. Ms. Morris is currently pursuing a PhD in Translational Science at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and has recently completed a Translation Science Training Scholar Fellowship.
A Texas native, Ms. Morris received her bachelor’s degree in social work from Texas Christian University before moving to New York to earn a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work, concentrating in health, mental health, and disabilities. She has previously worked with upper limb loss patients in a private prosthetic office where she responsible for addressing the emotional component of prosthetic care through case management, individual and family counseling, support groups and collaboration with community resources. Ms. Morris has additionally worked with vision loss patients at the Lighthouse International and has also served as a governor’s fellow for the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. Ms. Morris additionally holds a Masters in Public Health from the University Of Texas School Of Public Health.
In addition to her professional experience in the disabilities field, Ms. Morris was born with congenital limb loss below the elbow which provides her with shared experiences of others adjusting to limb loss. She was fitted for her first prosthesis at six months of age and began wearing a myoelectric prosthesis at age two. Ms. Morris is dedicated to empowering people with disabilities and their families to lead satisfying and fulfilling lives.
Outside of her professional pursuits, Ms. Morris is dedicated to investing in the San Antonio community. Her involvement includes membership in the Junior League of San Antonio, United Way Emerging Leaders Council, PULSE SA Committee of the American Heart Association, Young Friends of the San Antonio Art Museum Steering Committee, and LOOP (Leadership Organization of Professionals) Board Member.
Michael Odum, Corporate Market Director, American Heart Association
Michael Odum is a fundraiser and active agent of change. He has been working with nonprofits for the past three years covering the fields of affordable housing, foster care, and healthcare. He has a Master’s degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Non-Profit Management from The University of Texas Pan American. As a Rio Grande Valley native, Michael worked on community efforts focused on immigration reform by helping bring awareness and action to the plight of unaccompanied children fleeing violence from Central and South America. He has lived in San Antonio for a little over a year now and has come to call this his home. In this short time, Michael has been building strong collaborative relationships centered on learning how to address systemic issues impacting his new found home. Currently, he is employed with the American Heart Association as a Corporate Market Director. This job includes spreading awareness about the American Heart Association’s lifesaving programs as well as building the relationships necessary to fund those programs. Michael has a passion for connecting people and building meaningful relationships designed to impact change. As a member of the NLC he seeks to improve that ability to transform the community through the development of policy on the ground and at a political level.
Thea Setterbo, Public Engagement Officer, City of San Antonio
Thea is a public engagement officer with the City of San Antonio's Government & Public Affairs Department. In her role, she is responsible for performing media relations and community engagement to promote, support and integrate community involvement into City governance. A media relations internship with the City of Austin’s Public Information Office first piqued Thea’s interest in local government and working with the media.
Prior to joining the City, she worked as the communications specialist for Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas (GSSWT), coordinating public relations efforts on behalf of more than 30,000 members in a 21-county jurisdiction. As a passionate advocate of women’s rights, Thea’s position with GSSWT provided the reward of helping young girls find their voices and value. Working with Girl Scouts on several advocacy efforts led Thea to the front of a San Antonio City Council meeting for the first time while several of GSSWT’s youngest members spoke to then-Mayor Julián Castro about the benefits of Girl Scouts’ science, technology, engineering and math-focused programming. Thea returned to council in April 2014 on behalf of LOOP-San Antonio (Leadership Organization of Professionals) to speak to the Public Safety Committee and Chief William McManus in support of ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber.
Thea studied journalism and photography at Texas State University in San Marcos. In her free time, she enjoys long-distance running, weekly visits to the Pearl Farmer’s Market and making excellent use of the San Antonio Public Library system. As an occasional weekend side hustle, Thea also works for Tim the Girl Catering & Events.
MaryEllen Veliz, District Director, U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Lloyd Doggett
MaryEllen G. Veliz, a San Antonio native, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
At the end of 2013, upon graduating from UTSA, MaryEllen worked as Volunteer Coordinator for Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff’s primary re-election campaign. While working on the Wolff campaign, she arranged volunteer block walks and phone banks. Both activities being integral parts of Judge Nelson Wolff’s successful campaign.
MaryEllen joined Team Doggett again in 2014. Previously she had been an intern on U.S. Congressman Doggett’s 2012 re-election campaign and in his San Antonio District office. MaryEllen spent seven months in Washington D.C. working on Capitol Hill as a Legislative Assistant for Rep. Lloyd Doggett. While working on Capitol Hill, her legislative portfolio included issues such as foreign policy and environmental policy. MaryEllen returned home to San Antonio and currently serves as Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s San Antonio District Director.
Outside of work, MaryEllen is a member of the Bexar County Young Democrats. She served as the organization’s Secretary in 2013 and assisted in coordinating the group’s first annual Blue Revolution Gala. The following year she was elected to serve as President of the Bexar County Young Democrats for the 2014 term
Jose Alberto Vidal, Partner, Our Community Inc.
A native of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México, and is a graduate of Cathedral High School in El Paso, TX. He has a Bachelor of Arts in International Business and Marketing from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. He has also taken courses in Spanish-English and English-Spanish translation and interpretation.
He owned an importing company originally out of Buenos Aires, Argentina and was also involved in business initiatives on the Eastside of San Antonio, TX. José Alberto has lived, worked and studied throughout México as well as in Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina.